Listen with Father: How I Learned to Love Classical Music

By Caroline Sanderson

A resonant memoir of a beloved father, evoked through the classical music he cherished.

Monday, 17 January 2022

~#ListenWithCaroline Rhapsody on Blue

I’m writing this, my first “Listen With Father” update of 2022 on Blue Monday, apparently the most depressing day of the year. So a cheer-up musical thread is in order.

Despite its title, George Gershwin’s sublime “Rhapsody in Blue” could be the perfect antidote to any despondency you feel. I’ve been on a Gershwin listening binge after watching Christopher Wheeldon’s gorgeous staging of the musical “An American in Paris” over Christmas. It features a host of Gershwin tunes, along with lyrics by his brother Ira.  Gershwin’s original title for “Rhapsody in Blue” was “American Rhapsody”. But Ira suggested the title change after seeing an exhibition of James Whistler paintings, including the artist's “Nocturne In Blue And Green of the Thames at Chelsea”.

I’m glad he kept “Rhapsody” in the title though because I love this expressive word. And by chance, on BBC 3 Radio Three in the car this morning, I heard Composer of the Week featuring the music of Franz Liszt. I’m not well acquainted with his work, but the programme reminded me that he wrote a whole series of rhapsodies for piano, based on folk tunes from his native Hungary. His Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 is perhaps the most famous. So famous that it once featured in a Tom and Jerry cartoon called The Cat Concerto, in which Tom – a tuxedo-wearing feline concert pianist – wakes up mouse Jerry who has been snoozing inside the piano, with revengeful and hilarious consequences. As I relate in my book, my Dad and I watched “Tom & Jerry” cartoons together almost every weekend when I was a child, and he laughed at them as much as I did.

Even without the cartoon capers, I reckon the sheer energy of Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 might just spring you from any “Blue Monday” gloom.

Love from Caroline x

PS If you have supported “Listen With Father” – thank you. And if you can, I'd love it if you could take a moment to spread the word to others who might enjoy it.

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